In Helena De Preester & Veroniek Knockaert (eds.), Body Image and Body Schema. John Benjamins. pp. 65 (2005)

In this paper a tentative neurophysiologically framed approach of the Freudian unconscious that would function on the basis of linguistic (phonological) organizing principles, is proposed. A series of arguments, coming from different fields, are taken together. First, clinical reports indicate that in a state of high emotional arousal linguistic fragments are treated in a decontextualized way, and can lead to the isolation of phoneme sequences which, independently of their actual meaning, are able to resort emotional effects. Second, phonological and neurophysiological arguments are given to make the case that language processing – be it producing, receiving or imagining language – is a motor event. A crucial distinction is proposed: while contextualized processing correlates on a neurophysiological level with action understanding, and is psychoanalytically akin to secondary processing, decontextualized language processing has a neurophysiological counterpart in object understanding and is psychoanalytically akin to primary processing. Third, isolated speech fragments are therefore considered as objects which, similarly to non-linguistic objects, undergo emotional conditioning and establish an idiosyncratic linguistically structured emotional memory. Phoneme sequences which in this way come to carry high emotional valences are thought to be more readily subject to threaten the bodily integrity, and therefore more readily inhibited. When this inhibition leads to the prevention of effective realization of the voluntary motor output, this is thought to result in the sustained high levels of neuronal activation which seek for release by attracting substitutes that are phonemically similar to the censored speech fragments though they are cognitively non threatening. As a result, the speech of the subject would be particularly concerned with the verbalizations of these substitutive phoneme sequences. In summary, the Freudian unconscious is conceived as the instantiation of a linguistic action space which would be idiosyncratically organized by particular phonemic “phantoms” operating as attractors for the subject’s (linguistic) actions.
Keywords unconscious  signifier  emotion
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The Interpretation of Dreams.Sigmund Freud & A. A. Brill - 1900 - Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods 10 (20):551-555.

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